|Born||26 November 1956
Karimnagar district, Andhra Pradesh, India
|Died||24 November 2011 (aged 54)
West Bengal, India
|Other names||Kishenji, Prahlad, Murali, Ramji and Sridhar|
|Organization||Communist Party of India (Maoist)|
Mallojula Koteswara Rao (26 November 1956 – 24 November 2011), commonly known as Kishenji, was a Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the group’s military leader.
Kishenji was born into a poor family in Pedapalli (in the district of Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh) which eked out a living on priesthood in near by temples His father was a freedom fighter and, also vice-president of the state branch of the Congress Socialist Party. In 1973, after a BScmathematics degree from Government Degree College, Peddapalli, he moved to Hyderabad to pursue law.
Early political life
He launched the Radical Students Union (RSU) in Andhra Pradesh. He became a full-time member of the People’s War Group in 1974. During the Emergency in 1975, he went underground to take part in the revolution. Several things motivated him: Writer Varavara Rao, who founded the Revolutionary Writers Association, India’s political atmosphere and the progressive environment in which he grew up. When he joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), his father left the Indian National Congress saying, two kinds of politics cannot survive under one roof. His father believed in socialism, but not in armed struggle.
After the Emergency ended in 1977, Kishenji led the historic peasant movement against feudalism at Jagitial and Siricilla in Karimnagar. Over 60,000 farmers joined it. This was the basis for the formation of the People’s War Group in Andhra Pradesh by Naxalite leader Kondapalli Seetharamaiah in the early ’80s.
During search operations in 1982, the police broke down his home in Peddapalli village. Around 1990, when he was the state committee secretary of Andhra Pradesh, theCommunist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) moved him to Dandakaranya, from there to West Bengal and later to Jharkhand. He married M. Mainakka, who also joined the Maoists. During the last two decades, he moved under various aliases, including Murali, Pradip, Vimal, and Prahlad. After 20 years in the Naxal belt of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, he relocated to West Bengal and went on to emerge as the most prominent Maoist leader in eastern India. He is believed to be among the prime movers of the proposal to merge the People’s War Group with the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), which led to the formation of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in 2004.
Soft-spoken, well-read, tech-savvy and fluent in at least six languages (English, Telugu, Bengali, Hindi, Santhali and Oriya) he was a leader with extra ordinary qualities. He strengthened the organisation in West Bengal and became an important member of the outfit’s eastern region bureau. His stature grew in the tribal hinterland of West Bengal called Jungalmahal, bordering Jharkhand.
In May 2009, Kishenji for the first time used the media when his letter to his mother Madhuramma, was sent to a Telugu newspaper. In it, he wrote that after he witnessed police firing outside his school he decided to join the Maoists. Later, Kishenji would use the media as an effective tool to spread Maoist propaganda.
With the launch of joint-security operations against the Maoists in the Jangal Mahal region in June 2009, Kishenji was among the prime targets.
In an encounter in the Hatilot forest area in March last year, Kishenji was believed to have been seriously injured and reports suggested that he had moved out of West Bengal, leaving his comrade Sashadhar Mahato in charge of military operations here. While reports poured in of his movements in Orissa, Jharkhand and Assam, the death of Sashadhar Mahato in an encounter in March, 2011 may have forced his return
Officials claimed that the hunt actually began by the 207 Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) Battalion, the 167 and 184 Central Reserve Police Force battalion along with theCounter Insurgency Force (CIF), West Bengal State police on 22 November 2011 noon inside the forests of Kushbani. But the team, comprising Kishenji, Suchitra Mahato and other Maoist leaders, made a narrow escape. The joint forces, anticipating Kishenji might try to slip to Jharkhand, sealed the border and continued combing operation. On 24 November 2011 morning they recovered a laptop bag, diary, map and letters from the house of Dharmendara Mahato, an young resident of Goshaibandh village. After the belongings were found, the forces started operations with renewed vigour and zeroed in on the team inside dense forests of Burishol, 10 km from the West Bengal-Jharkhand border. There Kishenji was killed on 24 November 2011 after a 30-minute gunfight when conducting the joint operation. Officials of West Midnapore police and state intelligence branch claimed a total of six bodies were found in the jungles. Two of the bodies were of Maoist squad leader Jayanto and Ramkrishna. Late in the evening police took surrendered Maoist Soma Mandi and former Sankrail police station Officer-in-Charge Atindranath Dutta who was taken hostage by the maoists on 21 October 2009 to identify the body. The body of Kishenji was first taken to Jhargram hospital morgue and then to the Midnapore police morgue for post-mortem examination.
After the confirmation of the death of Kishenji, maoists and other political personnels and even the family members of Kishenji claimed that the killing of the maoist leader was done in fake encounter in police custody, a charge denied by Central Reserve Police Force Director-General Vijay Kumar who said it was a “clean” operation. But Telugu poet Varavara Rao said, “The story of an encounter is a fabrication”. Maoist spokesperson Akash, Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta, Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) leaders Raj Kumar Singh and Krishna Adhikari shared the same view and demanded independent judicial inquiry from the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
Kishenji’s death marked a serious blow to the Maoist’s movement in India.
Leave a Reply